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You Make Me Smile With My Heart

Just a little belated reflection here on Oliver’s Valentine’s Day.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day myself, but nothing like having a kid to really change your perspective on certain previously unacknowledged holidays. This was the first year Oliver had a Valentine’s Day party at daycare and the children created little mailboxes and exchanged cards/treats.

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Holidays that focus on food or goodies can be a little challenging and I do find myself vibrating at a bit of a higher stress frequency (higher than normal, that is). But I was surprised by the number of treats Ollie received from his friends that did not involve something I needed to hide away from him. Even the treats that involved something edible were mostly safe for Ollie to eat. I have been meaning to ask his teachers if they had given the other families a heads up on his restrictions or if it was all a coincidence. Either way it was a really pleasant surprise to let him enjoy all of the treats his friends were thoughtful enough to give.

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While I was out shopping around for something to go along with his Mickey Mouse valentines (we finally settled on Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks, I came across a lot of fun items that were galactosemia friendly, for kids and adults.

Wegmans had these beautifully packaged dark chocolate mixed nut barks that I would not recommend for a two-year old, but I would really enjoy it. Only the dark chocolate option was dairy-free. They also had a really cute cherry pie with a heart cutout that I could easily eat in one sitting.

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Of course, the holiday section of Target had a wide variety of dairy-free or non-edible valentine items. I love that some companies are now offering something other than chocolate in the traditional heart-shaped box. Not all of these options were age-appropriate for our toddler, but it’s nice to have an idea of what we can start to do as he gets older.

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And, although we didn’t make it down to Lititz to visit my new favorite semi-local bakery, Sugar Whipped Bakery, they posted these AMAZING looking vegan/gluten-free cookies! I think they are just the cutest. Follow them on Instagram (@sugarwhippedbakery) or just stop in to see what they have available for the dairy-free/vegan/gf folks, in addition to their regular baked goods. Seriously, I’m in love with them.

Inevitably when one of these holidays or events passes, whether it has gone really well or we faced some tough realizations, John and I find ourselves looking toward the future. Will things go this well when he’s three? When he’s ten? What happens when he’s a teen and has to make good decisions on his own? I suppose this is true with most parenting wins or losses, but we still worry and we keep pushing forward, caught off guard sometimes by how the things that felt insurmountable in theory (constantly checking food labels, worrying about his childcare, challenges in his development, etc.) have actually  been a lot easier to navigate so far than we thought.

We try to remind ourselves of the little triumphs when the chips are down, and we are counting this V-Day as a victory for little O.

 

Here’s To Troubles Being Less and Blessings Being More

There’s a period of time from around the week before Thanksgiving until the new year begins when I basically fall off the grid. It is not intentional. Between travel and family obligations and work and the cold weather and the early sunsets and prepping for Christmas and a dozen other things I could rattle off, I tend to turn my attention solely toward our little family and finishing out the year in a way that feels tidy and…well, finished. I like feeling as if the next year is beginning with a clean slate.

So, here are a few highlights to show what we have been up to for the past few months. Thank you for everyone who has been checking in here on the blog, on our new Facebook page, and of course in person everyday. We are so appreciative for everyone’s love and support throughout Oliver’s galactosemia journey.

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We traveled to Richmond to visit our families over Thanksgiving and Oliver got to partake in some of my mom’s homemade Korean food. Fermented soy being moved to the occasional food list has been a really nice surprise this year. Sharing cultural memories through food with my mom and my son is an incredibly special thing!

IMG_4021 2My family as a whole has been really supportive and accommodating when it comes to meals with Oliver. With only a few modifications, we were able to make our entire Thanksgiving dinner dairy-free (for the second year in a row)! The only item that we made special for John, Oliver, and myself was the gravy. (I have not perfected this recipe enough for others to find it to be an acceptable substitute for the real deal.) My sister, Tammy, who has always baked all of the holiday pies for the family, goes out of her way each year to make multiple pies that are dairy-free (apple, cherry, pumpkin), as well as dairy-free oreo balls which are a Lucy family favorite! She even makes sure to pick up dairy-free whipped topping so we do not miss out on any of the experience!

Oliver loved every sticky-fingered second of it!

IMG_4098Speaking of sweets! While we were with family, we celebrated Oliver’s birthday a little early. My other sister, Maria, was able to make the trek from New York and brought a special birthday cake for Ollie! A beautiful and absolutely delicious pareve cake from a kosher bakery in Queens. “Pareve” food items are prepared in accordance with Jewish law and mean that they contain no meat or dairy. You can also find lots of products in the grocery store labeled as “pareve” or “parve” and are marked with a “U” which generally means they are safe for a galactosemia diet. However, I always (always!) check the ingredient labels to be absolutely certain.

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Oliver had his last check-up with his doctors in Philadelphia on Halloween day. Hospital days are always a little stressful, although we’ve learned to manage the anxiety a lot better as time has gone on. We received his latest numbers while we were in the car driving down to Virginia. Ollie’s blood tests are not your run-of-the-mill tests, so it always takes a while to get the results. Our team has been really great about contacting us with the preliminary results as soon as they can so we do not have to wait for the formal results to be certified before we find out where we stand. We were very happy to find Ollie’s downward trend for his Gal-1-P continues. He is down just slightly to 7.55 which is always what we are hoping for. We continue to want to get him down below 5 but everyone, including us, are happy he continues to make progress. The blood draw at his last appointment was especially difficult. Oliver is now very aware of what is going on and does not bounce back as quickly after the poke. When he was younger, he seemed to forget about the needle almost as soon as it was over, but this time around Ollie would point to his arm and start crying a few times over the next few hours. “Ouchy.” It is gut-wrenching. I know he will eventually understand why these tests are so important and hospital days will continue to be days we ply him with treats and fun activities well into the future. Whatever it takes to make these days go a little easier for him and to ease whatever discomfort he is feeling.

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On the ride back, we stopped at Trader Joe’s and started off the holiday festivities right with some of their Almond Nog. We drank it out of paper cups in the car. Definitely was a tasty little treat. Christmas is tough because, like many holidays, it revolves around food, and sweets, and traditions, and American delicacies seem to heavily include dairy products. We never want Oliver to miss out on any experiences if we can help it, so we continue to find ways to adapt, alter, modify, or out-and-out change whatever we need to so we can be sure we can create happy holiday memories and traditions and never feel left out.

 

IMG_3832Whether it be holiday parades where candy is being chucked at us from every direction, building gingerbread houses at school, or baking Christmas cookies for Santa, Oliver did it all this year! We are starting to explain certain things to him, even if he can’t quite grasp it all fully yet. “This candy has milk in it, so let’s have this other piece instead.” It helps us get in the habit of trying to educate him instead of just making choices for him. It is important for us that he understands the why as much as is age appropriate.

Some times are harder than others. Have you ever tried to explain to a two-year-old why he can’t have a beautifully frosted snowman sugar cookie? And it keeps us on our A-game to always make sure we have an alternative available for him, whether it be at school or with friends. Which reminds me…our Ollie has the absolute BEST teachers around! They go out of their way to make sure that he is always safe when it comes to what he’s eating at school and are constantly keeping me up-to-date on current goings on so I know when another child’s parents are planning birthday treats and whether Oliver will be able to participate. It makes a big difference knowing we are not in this alone and they are helping make Oliver’s experiences the best possible!

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We are ringing in the New Year at home, in our PJs, and O has been in bed since 8pm. Not the most exciting celebration night I’ve ever rung in, but we are so unbelievably happy to have another year of a healthy little boy under our belts. This time two years ago we were exhausted new parents who were running largely off of caffeine and anxiety and could not look confidently into the future to know better times were ahead. Fast forward to today and we are starting to feel a little more secure and a lot more confident…but still heavily caffeinated.

So from our family to yours, we are wishing you a very prosperous, joyous 2018! May it be filled with love and laughter!

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Sweets & Treats (& Eats): Richmond, VA Edition

One of the things I love the most about going back to Richmond for visits has been the pleasure of watching it evolve. I would say it has become an even more progressive, food-loving, family-centric city over the last ten years or so.

Whenever we are planning a visit, John and I try to include a few new stops at restaurants that offer dairy-free options, which has been surprisingly easy as the city and surrounding area have a lot of vegan and allergy-friendly businesses.

Unfortunately, while central Pennsylvania has a lot going for it, it does NOT have a lot to offer in the way of eating out with dietary restrictions. We have been faced with plenty of rejection here when we’ve requested ingredient info and it is rare to find menus marked with V, DF, Veg, or even G, although gluten awareness seems to be outpacing the other Big 8 common allergens. Also, if I’m being honest, a lot of the options that are available for the dairy-free/vegan set in the area…have a ways to go in the taste department (certainly not all of them, though). We hope to see this change in the years to come, but in the meantime we pay extra-close attention, and go out of our way to patronize, vegan-friendly locations when we are out-of-town.

So when we were in Richmond a few weeks ago, here were some of the highlights:

WPA Bakery:

IMG_2554WPA Bakery has two locations, but we opted for the Church Hill locale. We made it there *just* before they closed. They are not exclusively vegan but every Sunday they offer vegan donut varieties.

On this particular day, the base for all five of these donuts were the same, but each had a different topping: chocolate, cinnamon/sugar, caramel (my fave), coconut, and powdered sugar.

They were more cake-y than some vegan donuts I’ve had, and even though I tend to prefer the fried, yeast-y kind, these were pretty good. The caramel topping was exceptional! IMG_2555

All of their fruit pies are vegan and we were lucky that even though we arrived late that day, there were a couple of options still available. We chose raspberry-apple and a mixed berry. The great thing I have found about a lot of pies, even the ones I make at home, is you can make a delightful, flaky crust without dairy, and these slices with crumble on top were tart, sweet, and fantastic.

Overall we  really enjoyed WPA. The staff was incredibly helpful and friendly and I love supporting the local guy when we can. We will definitely be back in the future.

Sugar Shack Donuts:

Because we do a lot of cooking and experimenting with food at home, we have been able to replicate a lot of traditionally dairy-full dishes to scratch that itch when we need to. Pastas, mac and “cheese,” pizza, if it’s savory, we tend to have it covered.

Unfortunately, my dairy-free baking is hit-or-miss, and donuts have been my personal white whale. I’ve never been able to make a good donut when ALL ingredients were still on the table, so take a few out of the running and I end up with dense, greasy little messes. It is sad.

One of the only things I ever miss about having dairy in my life are donuts. Yeasty, light donuts with fresh glaze are some of the best things on the planet as far as I’m concerned. Enter: Sugar Shack.

IMG_2675We have been to Sugar Shack on previous trips because they have always put themselves out there as vegan-friendly and have had a vegan option for quite a while. However, previously it was an alternative to their “regular” donuts and, if I remember correctly, they were more of a cake-style. Don’t get me wrong, they were amazing, but like I have said before, I have been hunting for a good vegan yeast donut for a while.

According to a recent article in Style Weekly, nearly all of their donuts are vegan now and GM/dough-maker Mike Goins spent two years perfecting this vegan yeast donut. I cannot stress enough how amazing they are. And not amazing-for-a-vegan-donut amazing but truly, empirically delicious. I would bet next to no one could tell the difference between these donuts and donuts with eggs and dairy. They are simply that good.

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We went to the flagship Lombardy location and these bad boys didn’t even make it out of the parking lot.

There were six in this box. But they were freshly glazed soooo…let’s just say I showed great restraint by stopping to take any photos at all.

 

 

The Daily Kitchen and Bar:

IMG_2582I’ll be honest. When John first proposed this restaurant to me, I thought it looked a tad too fancy for us to roll up with Oliver. Even though he can be an adventurous eater, at 21 months, he is in full-on moody toddler mode most of the time. Unpredictable is an understatement. But we wanted to do some shopping in Carytown anyway, so we agreed to do a little fly-by and if the vibe wasn’t child-friendly, we had some back-up options in the area.

There are so many great things about The Daily, but the big one is they list their entire menu on their website and denote paleo, vegan, and even if it has a vegan option. With a focus on sustainable, local foods (they have a list on their website of where most of their products come from!), it is a really refreshing place with LOTS of vegan options for us and an easy vibe.

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Our waiter was very comfortable with our questions and for those he could not answer, he did not seem bothered at all to go back and ask the kitchen for clarification. We were in before their lunch rush so we felt comfortable taking our time and asking enough questions to feel confident in our meal choices.

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I opted for a BLT with avocado and a side of maple sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes were probably my absolute favorite thing about this meal. They were sweet and perfectly cooked with a bit of a kick from the pepper. John had chicken tacos with a side of beans and rice. And our little O had a chicken and vegan cheeze quesadilla with sea salt french fries.

IMG_2585Overall it was a really hearty meal and we felt confident we were ordering food that fits well with O’s diet. Best of all, Oliver definitely seemed to enjoy his meal!

**I feel like it is important to reiterate here that we do not adhere to a vegan diet. I have a lot of respect for those who do, but for now we are only dairy free. Since vegan products by definition do not have dairy in them, we often use that as a barometer in finding eating out options.

Charm School Social Club:

IMG_2641Oh, Charm School! Where have you been all my life? This delightful local ice cream shop is just so perfect to me. From its mint green doors and accents to the minimalist decor to its vegan ice cream options. There are no words to describe how much I love Charm School Social Club. (I mean, can we talk about their Instagram…)

 

 

IMG_2629Baskin Robbins, it ain’t, and it is all the better for it. When we were there, they had about a dozen dairy ice cream flavors available, and another four or so vegan options. We chose the vegan sundae, which consists of two scoops, Magic Shell, vegan marshmallow fluff, nuts, and a cherry. We also had the option of vegan whipped “cream” but we did not see it in time so we did not get any #regrets.

I believe the four vegan flavors there that week were: vanilla, Mexican chocolate, peanut butter fudge, and cereal milk (Cinnamon Toast Crunch). We chose a scoop each of the peanut butter and cereal milk. They torch the fluff slightly for a toasted marshmallow effect. A subtle little flavor detail that really adds something special to this sundae.

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We miss our friends and family in the Richmond area daily, and now we have some memorable food options to add to our list of things we miss while we are away. Until next time, RVA!

 

Sweets & Treats: Ben and Jerry’s Non-Dairy Ice Cream

One of the highlights of my childhood was spending summers with my older sister in New York City. I often tell stories about the new and exciting things I was exposed to through those trips. One of those early credits goes to meeting, and subsequently falling in love with, two of my oldest and dearest pals: Ben and Jerry.

Like any good big sister, she would ply my other sister and I with any number of sweet treats during these visits. Regular trips to Baskin Robbins, Italian ices and frozen lemonades from street vendors, and various sweet buns from the Chinese and Korean bakeries, were all staples of my summers. So it should come as little surprise that I had my first taste of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the late 1980s on one of these trips. Rainforest Crunch, to be specific (RIP, old friend). My life would be forever changed after tasting such a delectable sweet treat packed with more flavor and “goodies” than any other ice cream I had every had until then.

Fast forward twenty thirty(!) years and my love for Ben and Jerry’s has remained steadfast. From Phish Food and Bovinity Divinity (RIP) which guided me through many a late night study session in college (Freshman Fifteen, indeed) to their socially conscious activism, they could do no wrong in my eyes. So when dairy and the Lucy family officially parted ways, they were honestly one of the few treats I knew I would really miss eating and a company I would surely miss supporting.

But apparently Ben and Jerry’s heard my (and so many others’) plaintive cries and have developed an entire (recently expanded) line of non-dairy ice creams. Huzzah!

As you can see, I had to try one of each.

As you can see, I had to try one of each.

I have tried many non-dairy ice creams over the past year (probably more than any one person should)  and while most get the job done, few of them have the taste and feel of “real” ice cream. Ben and Jerry’s seems to have cracked the code, though. Perfect texture, chock full of tasty little tidbits, and the flavors are tremendous. You can find them here.

I loved the first four flavors so much that when word spread that they had a second round of flavors to be released, I stalked all of my usual haunts to try to nab them as soon as possible. Aside from specialty stores, like The Healthy Grocer, locally we’ve found the most robust selection of dairy-free products at Wegmans, with Giant running a close second. And although our local Target store’s selection of dairy-free products is pretty limited, we have been able to rely on them for this particular product, so I checked there often as well.

It took a little while  for it to find its way to the Central Pennsylvania market but they were absolutely worth the wait! I would have bet good money that the Coconut Seven Layer Bar was destined to be my new favorite since I am a massive fan of coconut treats, but the Caramel Almond Brittle won the day IMHO! Amazing flavor and the little pieces of almond brittle are exceptional. I can’t recommend these enough!

Little Oliver has not been introduced to too many sweet treats just yet, aside from his birthday cake, so John and I are continuing to taste-test plenty of options for him as he gets older and we eventually share more sweet treats with him. If they keep this up, Ben and Jerry’s will surely be a staple of Oliver’s childhood, like it was mine. Like mama, like child!

 

Sweets & Treats: Carytown Cupcakes

As Oliver’s first birthday approached, John and I knew we didn’t want to go overboard on our plans for celebrating. Sure, it’s a huge milestone, but the idea of hunting down coordinated cake toppers, themed decorations, and party favors sounded like my idea of a nightmare. I had visions of myself hunched over our kitchen table the night before a huge birthday extravaganza creating perfect little goody bags in the middle of hot glue hell. No, thank you. Besides, let’s face it, this lovely little creature of mine has no tolerance or patience for drawn-out affairs that require him to sit still, eat when we want him to, or interact with a bunch of people at the same time. There will, in my estimation, be plenty of time for that for future birthdays.

Happy 1st Birthday, O!

Happy 1st Birthday, O!

We did, however, want a cake or some sort of decadent sweet treat for him. We have been so careful with his diet over the past year, particularly when we started with real food (partly because of his galactosemia but more so because I’m so obsessed with making sure he is getting the proper nutrition any infant/toddler needs) that I wanted to give him a chance to go absolutely bananas on a cake for the big day.

Carytown Cupcakes, Richmond, Virginia

Carytown Cupcakes, Richmond, Virginia

Because we would be traveling to visit our families in the Richmond, Virginia area over Thanksgiving, we thought it would be a nice opportunity to have Ollie try his first cake. Also, because we were traveling, I really didn’t want to have to take over someone else’s kitchen to bake him a cake. So, a few months beforehand, I contacted Carytown Cupcakes to see if they would be able to fill a special order right around the holiday. Carytown Cupcakes was a favorite of John & I before we went dairy-free and, as luck would have it, they carry vegan cupcakes regularly in their store at 3111 W. Cary Street so we knew they were more than capable.

Vegan & Non-Vegan Treats

Vegan & Non-Vegan Treats

Better still, they don’t just carry an obligatory plain vanilla or chocolate flavor vegan cupcake just so they can say they cater to vegans like some other bakeries we’ve seen. They create fun, delicious vegan flavors (typically two varieties). Flavors like Pumpkin Chocolate Chip, Maple Pecan Flapjack, and Speculous Cookie Butter, to name a few. Whatever the theme is for the store that week, the vegan and dairy-free set are not excluded. Hooray!

Their menu evolves constantly with weekly themes

Their menu evolves constantly with weekly themes

I contacted the store through email and Facebook and they were responsive and helpful in guiding me through the order process. I feared since my order was on the small-side (a 6-inch tasting cake and one dozen cupcakes) that I might not be made a priority during what is likely a busier time of year for the bakery. However, Jessica and Kevin quickly assuaged my fears. They assured me we could work around the holiday to make sure the cakes were ready for us when we needed them and offered use several options regarding flavors, decorations, and colors.

Vanilla & Pumpkin Chocolate Chip

Vanilla & Pumpkin Chocolate Chip

Our vegan flavor options for both the “smash” cake and cupcakes were either or both of the vegan flavors scheduled for that week, a vegan vanilla, or a vegan chocolate. We selected vegan vanilla cake with vegan vanilla buttercream for the 6-inch cake as well as half of the cupcakes and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip for the remaining cupcakes. And I have to say, if you think exceedingly dense, gritty, or flavorless when you think vegan cakes, you are sorely mistaken when it comes to Carytown Cupcakes. Their cake and cupcakes are substantial, but flavorful and as close to “regular” cupcakes as any I’ve ever had. The vanilla buttercream was smooth and had a true vanilla flavor rather than just tasting like a sweet dollop of icing. The Pumpkin Chocolate Chip tasted just like the holidays should without being too overpoweringly sweet. Also, none of them had that overly greasy feeling that you find sometimes in products where true butter has been substituted with either dairy-free butter or vegetable shortening.

Our very smash-worthy cake

Our very smash-worthy cake

Because we were going to have Oliver smash into the cake, we went with a traditional iced cake with a fondant number but we did have the option of fondant covering the entire cake. I sent Jessica a few inspirational photos for the decorations and left the rest to her very capable hands. I should mention, too, that she was happy to share the ingredients she was going to be using in the cakes in advance so that I could go over them and be sure there wouldn’t be any other ingredients I should be concerned with. For that, I am eternally grateful.

We were scheduled to pick up our order on a Wednesday after 12:00pm, and it was ready and waiting when we got there just after noon. They included instructions for serving the cakes and cupcakes, and the cupcakes were packaged in freezable containers in case we were not going to serve them within the first day or so after picking them up.

In the end, I cannot praise Carytown Cupcakes enough. Their customer service and products were stellar. We will continue to visit them every time we visit the Richmond area.

Yes, do what the box says.

Yes, do what that box says.

Judge Not

I was one of those annoying pregnant women who read and researched every possible path, decision, option, and/or outcome. Truth be told, I’m not really a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal in everyday life, so throw a baby in the mix and I go into Type-A overdrive. After reading all of the literature and speaking to doctors and other moms, I had every intention of breastfeeding Oliver when he was born. And, in fact, I was successful for nearly four whole days. But, despite what any well-meaning or sanctimommy tells you, breast is NOT always best. There, I said it.

I feel like I should stop here to say, I’ve never been a judgy person when it comes to breastfeeding. I was not (and still am not) one of those women who feels particularly passionate about breast vs. bottle. I have never felt compelled to shame another mother for formula feeding in the same way I’ve never felt the need to shame a mother for breastfeeding in public. I’ve known lots of women who have breastfed and plenty who went solely with formula, and a fair number who settled on something in between. Quite frankly, any minor inkling I’ve ever had to pass judgment on another person is quickly dispensed with when I think about all of the many children around the world who don’t have nearly enough to eat. When I am reminded of that, it doesn’t take long for me to realize that however you got him there, your happy, healthy, well-fed child is none of my business.

But for me and my family, I decided it was what I wanted and I had high hopes for being able to stick with it. It was a personal decision and one I made freely for myself. At the same time, I also openly announced to my husband, family, friends, doctors, and admitted to myself, that if for some reason breastfeeding did not work out, I refused to feel ashamed for having to go a different route.

Many times when I talk to folks about galactosemia and the fact that Oliver lives dairy-free, they are surprised that he was/is unable to breastfeed. They often equate his condition with having an allergy and, since many babies who have a milk allergy or sensitivity often can continue to nurse if mom makes some dietary changes, I’m sometimes met with confusion as to why I didn’t just eliminate dairy from my diet and continue to fight the good fight. I then have to point out to them that, in the case of galactosemia, galactose is present in all mammal-made milk, including breastmilk (yes, humans are mammals, too), so a diet change wouldn’t protect our baby. In essence, my breastmilk was poisoning Oliver and therefore I had to stop.

Despite my laissez-faire attitude on the matter before Oliver arrived, I had a really, really, really tough time accepting the fact that I was not able to meet one of Oliver’s very basic needs in the same way women have been doing since the beginning of time. Maybe it was a biological yearning, maybe it was hormones, but I felt like a complete and utter failure at motherhood and life. Add to that the stress of having a newborn in the hospital fresh off a diagnosis of a rare condition and also having to physically force your body to STOP doing something it is biologically predisposed to…well, let’s just say it was an ugly time emotionally and physically for me.

I lay all this out for you in hopes you can understand then just how disheartening and daunting it can be the first time (and very possibly not the only time) a loved one, a friend, an acquaintance, or even a stranger quotes those three little words to you: Breast is best. It’s hard to know what your reaction might be. If you are like me, you might be inclined to give the person the benefit of the doubt. They mean well. They are just making conversation. They want to make sure you have all the facts. But quite quickly that might be replaced with anger and indignation. How dare someone presume to tell me what is right for my baby? They have no idea what we’ve been through? How can they lack basic empathy for another human being?

And then you will be faced with a choice: (a) become combative; (b) smile and nod; or (c) use the moment as a teaching opportunity to educate someone about why you aren’t breastfeeding. I’d love to say I am one who always is able to rise above and not let it bother me, particularly when I try initially to take the high road and the other person can’t take a hint. But I’m human and sometimes, on a day when maybe I’m struggling or frustrated or in a hurry, the last thing I want is for someone to presume to know what is best for me and my situation. I hate to admit it, but in those moments, I sometimes want to make the other person feel bad. Feel small. I get angry that I’ve allowed this person to make me feel guilty and revisit feelings I had when I felt like such a failure in Ollie’s first days in this world.  Just admitting that I could feel that petty makes me feel a real sense of shame. But, in those moments, I have to ask myself: What good will that do, making this person feel small? Will it make me feel better? Will it make this person think twice the next time? Who’s the hero of that story–the presumptuous stranger or the snapping mom?  I try to remind myself that I always hope to be the hero of my own story so maybe if I take the high road and try to educate whoever is sharing their advice, I can open that person’s mind to the fact that there is no SINGLE way to raise a baby, to feed a baby, to dress a baby, to diaper a baby, and on and on. Maybe killing ’em with kindness makes more of a lasting impression than lashing out in anger and frustration. I try to remind myself of all of that, and sometimes I may fail, but if I’m lucky, more often than not I will succeed.

Footloose and Dairy-Free

When I try to explain to people what having galactosemia means for Oliver, especially for the first time, one of the easier aspects to explain is that he is required to have a restricted diet and, in particular, can not have any dairy products. If this were the CliffsNotes explanation of galactosemia, you could file this under the Major Themes section. It’s one of the easier aspects for others to understand considering the number of children with food allergies and other aversions these days.almond-milk

Something else we find ourselves explaining is the fact that John and I decided to also go dairy-free fairly soon after Oliver’s diagnosis. We debated it for a long time, but in the end, it was the decision that made the most sense for our family. I have known plenty of children with food allergies, including family members, who have not restricted their own diets and I imagine there are plenty of other Big G families out there who do the same. And to that, I say, you do you, boo! No one knows your family the way you do; it’s a personal decision for sure. For us, we made the leap to living dairy-free for many reasons, so here are just a few:

  • Curbing accidents – By keeping products Oliver can’t eat out of the house, we are hoping to statistically cut down on the chances of him having an “oops” moment at home. We are realists so we’ve resigned ourselves to the idea that at some point, he will probably have an accident. Maybe another well-intentioned parent will accidentally offer him a cookie or he will reach onto a classmate’s plate and steal  a cheese puff (because, seriously who can resist?), it’s bound to happen at some point. In the US, dairy is so pervasive it almost seems inevitable. If we can cut down those odds even a little, then it’s worth it to us.
  • Economic impact, part 1 – Groceries are expensive, especially if you like to shop the outside of the store like we do. Fresh produce, meat, fish, and dairy (and the dairy-free products in that department) can add up quickly. Add to that snack foods and other packaged products, the idea of buying two of everything–one Oliver can eat and another he can’t but maybe we are used to buying–is enough to have me consider taking on a part-time job. Visions of a fridge and pantry packed with two versions of most everything, seems like such a waste.
  • Economic impact, part 2 – I am a big proponent of my voice, my dollars, and my internet “clicks” being valuable commodities. I believe that as a consumer, my opinion and needs should matter  to the businesses I support and if I find myself in a position where they don’t, then I have the luxury of moving on. We looked at our decision to go from buying for a single person in our family with special dietary needs to a family of three as hopefully a bigger statement to food-related businesses on the need for dairy-free food products and explicit labeling.
  • Health? – I put a question mark after this one because quite frankly I think the jury is still out as to whether animal-produced dairy products are good for you, bad for you, or somewhere in between. Like eggs, coffee, red meat, and wine, there seem to be new studies and advisories every year. What I do know is not having dairy in his diet won’t hurt Oliver and it is absolutely possible for him to have a well-balanced, healthful diet without it.
  • Second nature – By going dairy-free ourselves, John and I will find ourselves each and every day making decisions like Oliver will on what he puts into his body. We’ll have to ask questions, do research, and have back-up plans and hopefully, by doing that now, we will be able to help him better make decisions for himself and give him the ability to navigate the world confidently.

We have faced mixed reactions when we tell people, but one of the recurring reactions is, “I could never do that! I love cheese/chocolate/butter/fill-in-the-blank too much!” And had you asked me a year ago, I would have probably said the same thing. But honestly, once we made the decision, it really was like flipping a switch. We are so thankful to live in a time and place where we can find alternative versions of most everything!  I can’t say this is a decision for everyone, but for us it definitely feels right.

**If you are looking for an AWESOME resource to get yourself started or to learn more, Go Dairy Free is my go-to! Great recipes, advice, information, and product reviews!